I know a lot of fans aren’t looking for a silver lining after the Steelers Week 16 humiliating defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, but I’m going to give them one anyway...
Honestly, the Steelers didn’t need to win that game. They’re in almost the same boat they would have been otherwise, but now with a little less margin for error. They were huge underdogs on the road against the No. 1 seed in the conference who had an extra three days of preparation. It was not a good scenario.
The problem is watching the Steelers performance on the field. If it wasn’t for the Steelers seeming completely outmatched and in a completely different class than their opponents, despite one of their most dangerous offensive weapons being out for the game, fans probably wouldn’t have thought much about losing in Kansas City. But the product the Steelers put on the field made it seem like they were a team fighting more for a top draft pick rather than a playoff berth.
But putting the Steelers performance on the field aside, let’s simply look at the narratives from a distance. The last two weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers played the top two seeds in the AFC. As things stand right now, the Kansas City Chiefs are the top seed in the conference followed by the Tennessee Titans, who hold the tiebreaker over the Chiefs after defeating them 27–3 earlier this season. In those two games, the Steelers went 1–1.
If you were to tell me before both games happened that the Pittsburgh Steelers faced the top two seeds in the conference and they ended up with a split, I would take it.
Entering the final quarter of the 2021 NFL season, the Pittsburgh Steelers needed to go 3–1 in order to have a realistic chance of the postseason. Having that record would be a quality performance. In fact, under head coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have only ever gone better than 3–1 in their final 4 games one time. To go 4–0 was going to be a huge task, especially with the opponents they faced. Going 3–1 would be an acceptable outcome. Now the Steelers just have to finish with wins in the last two games to make it happen.
If the Steelers were going to play one ‘stinker’ in their final four games, the game against Kansas City was the time to do it. Let’s say the Steelers came out and played extremely tough against the Chiefs, but they still came up short. If they have a game where they fall on their face a bit in the last two, they’re done. Sure, if it was going to be one game at all where it happened, it might as well be the one they had the most stacked against them.
Now to bring up the point that everybody else will… who’s to say they’re only going to have one game like that?
And there you have it. You just hit the nail on the head.
The Pittsburgh Steelers can’t have another performance like they did against the Kansas City Chiefs. That was their game to get it out of their system. Now it’s time to play your best football, or be done.
The performance the Steelers put on the field in Kansas City gives no fan any confidence in this team. But confidence only goes as far as the last game. The Steelers don’t have to let their embarrassing performance against the Chiefs define them. It doesn’t have to be who they are in 2021. They just have to rise above it, and rise above it now.
Will the Steelers be able to shake off their latest loss? Do they have it in them to come out and play their hearts out against division foes the last two weeks of the season and earn a playoff berth?
They very well could. And they very well could not.
But we’re not going know until we tune in on Monday night.
I talk about this, and playoff scenarios, in the latest episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, check it out below: